By LI Bohemian
March 30 2017
The people of Jersey are a fierce lot, they are fiercely proud of their Island, they are fiercely proud of their Rugby Team and fiercely polite, really the nicest crowd you could ever meet. When we arrived in the main port of St Hellier on the Friday evening, every bar was full of London Irish supporters, the next day there were even more, milling, drinking, taking in the sun. We took a packed bus up to the ground, although not a long distance, the roads are understandably slower because of the politeness of the road users, which made me think that all the vehicles probably have no horns fitted, as they are not needed.
The rugby ground is situated by the airport on the top of a raised plateau, this was a very windy place, not a cross wind but a swirling billowing wind, a kicking game would be out of the question. The pitch sloped slightly post-to-post, there were plenty of places to buy refreshments and food, and at reasonable prices.
The supporters on both sides were fantastic, making the atmosphere terrific right up until the final whistle. The first half was mainly played in the Irish half as the wind and slope dictated. A clearance from Jersey in their own 22 was carried over the Irish dead ball line with some help from the wind, setting up a scrum for Irish in a dangerous position, through some good carries and rucks, Irish were able to work the ball near the try line, where Scott Steele picked the ball from the ruck, dummied and dived under the tacklers, TBC was unable to convert.
Jersey came storming back and from the restart, pushing Irish back and making them concede numerous penalties, finally getting a try, but also unable to convert it.
Irish once more managed to get into Jersey’s half and Ransom kick an unlikely drop goal putting the visitors ahead again. Jersey found yet another gear and after missing a couple of penalties, finally got one on the stroke of half time. Making the scores 8-8.
In the second half Irish were playing with the wind and down the slope, you might think that it was game over, but that is where I suspect many teams have made this assumption and wondered how they lost, Irish tried to press too hard and forced themselves into errors, this changed to self doubt, the Reds players sensed this and so did the crowed, too many long passes that got caught by the wind lead to drop balls, which Jersey pounced on and moved the ball up the pitch. TBC managed to kick a penalty but this was never going to be enough, as Jersey seemed more than capable of getting a score back.
Jersey retaining the ball through accuracy of play and some quick ruck ball kept Irish pinned on their own try line, making the break through try with little time left to play, the killer blow was a superbly taken conversion from Sheedy into the wind and out wide, making the scores 15-11.
Irish had chances to score in the final minutes, but by this time the volume of the Reds support was ear splitting and the Jersey teams resolve was strong.
The place erupted on the final whistle and both sets of supporters clapped the players.
After 1440 minutes of league rugby Irish lose at the final whistle. Reflecting on this fact directly after the match, with my thoughts in the clear vessel half empty mode, I was thinking that we may not gain promotion, had shown less intent on the day than Jersey, seemed poorly prepared for the conditions, London Irish don’t deserve the support we give them and premiership survival, if promoted, would be non-existent.
I am glad to say, this is because I’m a sore loser, for about a couple of seconds after a game lost.
Writing this now, my thoughts are in the clear vessel half full mode, making me think that the result was the kick up the posterior Irish need after some indifferent performances to get them back on track, this was a rotation squad not the full strength that actually nearly came back, away from home against an in form side, we are moving in the right direction and next season is a different challenge. Hope and belief restored.
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